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Space Science

First Four Exoplanets of 2012 Discovered 36

astroengine writes "Only four days into the New Year and the first four exoplanets of 2012 have been spotted orbiting four distant stars. All four alien worlds are known as 'hot Jupiters' — large gas giant planets orbiting very close to their stars. Their orbits are aligned just right with the Earth so that when they pass in front of their parent stars, they slightly dim the starlight from view. The discovery was made by the The Hungarian-made Automated Telescope Network (HATNet) Project (maintained by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) consisting of six small (11cm diameter), wide-field automated telescopes based at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO), Cambridge, Mass. and The Submillimeter Array atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii."
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First Four Exoplanets of 2012 Discovered

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  • Amazing (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Anyone know what the real estate market is like there? I mean, after we build our spider-silk space elevator and have daily Shuttle service to the Moon (in three years or so according to the free market invisible hand), I'd like to retire in a bungalow on a Hot Jupiter and have tea with Elon Musk.

  • "Hot Jupiters" (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by james_van ( 2241758 )
    Sounds like an indie chick band.
  • I know "Best of whatever of this year" come often too early, but this is just silly.

  • Hmmm ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @04:48PM (#38588688) Homepage

    Not to nitpick (and because I'm curious), have these just been announced, or have they actually been discovered in 2012? It's not entirely clear from TFA.

    Man, this stuff used to be practically sci-fi, now it seems to happen all the time.

  • by PingXao ( 153057 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @04:58PM (#38588792)

    The Drake Equation [] way back when made me accept that the probability of life elsewhere in the universe was high. These exo-planet discoveries are not all that surprising to me. Furthermore the existence of these planets is inferred. It's not like the HST captured some cool pictures of them. In fact, it's unlikely anyone in the near future (for whatever defn of "near future" you care to use) will ever see these planets with their own 2 eyes, or travel to any of them.

    In short, they're boring.

    • by cod3r_ ( 2031620 )
      it's still interesting to find them if you ask me. Especially when they start finding the "earth like" ones. I especially would like to hear what the hard core religious types say when the scientists can say beyond a shadow of doubt that we have found other planets that can definitely harbor life just like earth. It's obvious to me.. but surprisingly not to everyone.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Obligatory XKCD: []

      P.S.: It's obvious that other life in the universe must exist. The thing that must be tested for is if it *doesn't* exist. Cause that would be damn weird.
      The only reason there are people thinking that way, is because they are so egocentric that they think the world revolves around them. And not long ago, they meant this quite literally.

  • Another nit, FLWO is on Mount Hopkins in Arizona, not in Cambridge, MA. They wouldn't find the damn full moon if they were in Cambridge. []
    • FTFA:

      The Hungarian-made Automated Telescope Network (HATNet) Project consists of six small (11-cm diameter), wide-field automated telescopes based at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, in Cambridge, Mass., and The Submillimeter Array atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

      FLWO, as distinct from Cambridge MA, was the author's intent, I believe. Agree that the wording could be clearer. FLWO is owned and operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory [] in Cambridge.

  • Maybe not entirely off-topic, since this story is from the "mayans-predicted-them-of-course dept." but someone sent me some "Real Mayan 2012" hooey, which said [] (among the unfalsifiable new-age woo) this possibly falsifiable, possibly astronomical statement:

    [Dec. 21, 2012] will be the start of a new era resulting from and signified by the solar meridian crossing the galactic equator and the Earth aligning itself with the center of the galaxy."

    At sunrise on December 21, 2012 for the first time in 26,000 years

    • by na1led ( 1030470 )
      The Galactic Equator would have to be razor thin to cross over in just 1 day. If there is some mysterious field at the Galactic Equator, we should be able to see it's interaction with our solar system before it hits us.
      • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @05:45PM (#38589384) Homepage Journal

        Any equator, meridian or other line is infinitely thin.

        I don't know about any mysterious field there. But Mayans were indeed excellent astronomers and calendarmakers. The ecliptic plane does intersect the galactic equator, and the Mayans reportedly marked those lines and that point [], fairly prominently in their astronomy. Many ancient cultures, including all over the Eastern Hemisphere, marked days as special when the Sun rose or set at some point aligned with some other sky object, often marked with a calendarical artifact. So I wouldn't be surprised if the Maya noted the day that the Sun rose at that point along the horizon, even if that day were in the distant past (and/or future; these are cycles, as the Mayans knew).

        So is that day 12/21/2012? Or is this latest hooey 100% hooey?

        • by na1led ( 1030470 )
          Either the Mayans are trying to predict some future event with their calendar, in which case they could have only recieved this knowledge from alien beings, or their calendar is just that - a calendar and nothing more.
    • [] As I understand it, the earth and sun line up with the center of the galaxy every year, and 2012 will be the first time in 25,800 years that this will happen on the winter solstice. This happens to coincide with the end of a 144,000 day cycle in the Mayan calendar.
  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @05:24PM (#38589112)
    I want to know what happens to the final five.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      No, trust me you don't. It's like asking what the Force is made of, or what happened to the Matrix. Luckily, there were no sequels. And before you object, you better read xkcd...

      • What I really want is a flux capacitor and 1.21GW. The writers strike and cancellation rushed an ending that should have taken at least another season in to 10 episodes.
  • by zerosomething ( 1353609 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @05:45PM (#38589396) Homepage
    To this layman the current system seems to rely on faster moving large planets. Most if not all recent discoveries are plants that orbit on the order of days. It's not likely we will find larger planets like those in our system with this method. Saturn takes something like 22 years to orbit the sun. You won't see many transits of longer orbit exoplanets in the typical astronomers career.
  • First, did anyone notice than man HATnet site hasn't been updated since 2006? Hopefully this is because they are doing actual astronomy.

    To this layman the current system seems to rely on faster moving large planets.

    I am a layman as well, but this system (as well as others) measures the brightness or magnitude of target star(s) over time to detect exoplanets. I would believe one of the methods of verification is to watch for repeatable dips in the magnitude. Otherwise it may just have been a cloud. With infinite targets, limited equipment, and limited time, it makes sense that th

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